Council of the European Union

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The Council of the European Union (officially the Council and commonly referred to as the Council of Ministers) is the institution in the legislature of the European Union (EU) representing the governments of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament.[1] On certain areas of policy, such as foreign affairs, the Council is the sole decision-maker of the EU.[citation needed] The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers (one per state). The exact membership depends upon the topic; for example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the twenty-seven national ministers whose portfolio includes this policy area (with the related European Commissioner contributing but not voting).

The Presidency of the Council rotates every six months between the governments of EU member states, with the relevant minister of the respective country holding the Presidency at any given time ensuring the smooth running of the meetings and setting the daily agenda.[2] The continuity between presidencies is provided by an arrangement under which three successive presidencies, known as Presidency trios, share common political programmes. The Foreign Affairs Council (national foreign ministers) is however chaired by the Union's High Representative.[3] The Council is administered by the Council's Secretary General.

Its decisions are made by qualified majority voting in some areas, unanimity in others. Usually where it operates unanimously, it need only consult the Parliament. However, in most areas the ordinary legislative procedure applies meaning both Council and Parliament share legislative and budgetary powers equally. In a few limited areas the Council may initiate new EU law itself.[2]

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